Thursday, August 5, 2010

Change the Way You See

I'm too late to be on the official bandwagon for this, but I thought I'd do my own personal post in honor of Operation Beautiful Week.

The mission of Operation Beautiful is to end "negative self-talk", partly through awareness and partly through extending that awareness to other people through anonymous notes posted in public places. Caitlin has been posting the personal stories of health and wellness bloggers across the country. I've been reading them over the past few days, and have decided to write about about what this means to me.

But first I want to put on a little avant-garde jazz.

I was the fat girl in my elementary school class. There was one fat boy, too, so the class had a matched set. I wasn't pretty, either. I was picked on as a child because of my size and my brains and my introverted ways. I stood up for myself now and then, but what's a kid to do? It's tough. It sucks to be the fat kid. To this day I haven't let go of some of the bad experiences. Things were a bit better in junior high school, and a bit better still in high school. It was funny: all I had going for me, really, was my academic prowess, so I worked hard and practiced at physical education just because I wanted to get a good grade in gym class.

Health class in 10th or 11th grade (I forget now) made me start thinking more about nutrition. I stopped eating red meat, and then in the fall of '95 I became a vegetarian. Not that I was a particularly healthy vegetarian, mind you, but I started being more mindful of what I was eating. Then we had this test for gym class, where we were supposed to run 1 1/2 miles. First time I did it, I ran the first half lap, and then walked the rest. Again, I wanted to get a good grade, so I was over at the track practically every evening, jogging where I could, walking the rest, to the point where I could run a very slow 12-minute mile. (I think I got an A on the test just because I showed such improvement and dedication.)

The highest weight I ever remember seeing on the scale was 190 pounds. This was when I was fourteen or so, at my full height of 5' 7". When I became vegetarian, I started to lose some weight, down to 170, 175 or so. My senior year of high school, I wrote down in a steno notebook the calories and fat in everything I ate (my sister will remember this), working off of a calorie chart in an old diet book we had in the house. I remember that I had three meals and two snacks even back then. I was also back at the track three or four nights a week, walking and jogging.

Even though it seems crazy in retrospect, that food diary was a great thing for me. I went away to college, where we had three meals a day in the cafeteria, everything paid for in our residence fees. There was a great big salad bar in the center, next to the dessert tables. Burgers & sandwiches & pizza on one side, hot foods (vegetarian & non) on the other side. Sometimes I would go nuts on Sunday sundae occasions, where I would have a little ice cream with my caramel sauce and sprinkles, but often I would eat as well as I knew how: fresh vegetable salads, pasta with tomato sauce and carrots on the side, roasted mushrooms with polenta and a side of broccoli, oatmeal and melon for breakfast, and fat-free frozen yogurt. Combine this with the fact that there was a gym I could go to regularly meant that, for me, the freshman 15 was an imaginary thing that happened to some other people. I exercised, I ate well, and I got down to my normal fit weight: mid 140s.

However, being at an average weight (still not skinny) didn't do jack for my social life. It didn't guarantee that I had a boyfriend, or that guys even paid attention to me at parties. Even now I feel like the last girl in the group to get any attention. So the shape doesn't really matter. How you approach the world does. I never expected that losing weight would solve all my problems, I just thought it would be a good thing to do for myself.

I know that if I want to receive anything, first I should give it to the world. It won't necessarily come back to me, but I'm fine with that. If I want to be social, if I want attention, maybe I should go out and ask for it, nicely. I'll have a party and invite all kinds of people. I'll find people doing stuff and ask them about it. I'll just make eye contact and start interacting with someone. I'll be a good listener, fair and open and non-judgemental. All the qualities that really matter in yourself and other people, none of them depend on height or weight or hair color or shoe size.

All the running I've been doing has really made me think about my thighs. My body has its fat deposits in the upper portions of the extremities. I'm certain that my upper arms will never be skinny and there's an 11 inch difference between my waist and hips that makes it impossible to find pants that fit. My thighs, though, they might have muscle definition at the bottom, but they're definitely soft and comfy pillows at the top. Badunkadunk does not even begin to describe my booty. I think the fat is here to stay, and really, I'm all right with that. It's the way that I'm made, obviously; it's all natural. So why hate on what's natural? And, you know, one of these days, my thighs and I are going to run a 10K. Then my thighs and I are going to run a half-marathon. Then my thighs and I are going to run a full marathon. Because that's also the way I'm made.

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